We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.

Products and Services: DQI
1. Poor design quality wastes an enormous amount of money and time.
2. Demand is growing for high performance buildings that are innovative...



It is a "Vitruvian" assessment, measuring design in the broadest sense, focusing on everything from a building's Functionality, to its Build Quality, to the Impact the building has on its occupants and its surroundings. These three factors measured by the tool are the same considered by the Pritzker Architecture Prize, widely considered the Nobel Prize of architecture: commodity, firmness and delight.

Through the administration of a brief questionnaire (online or paper), the tool converts individual subjective perceptions into objective measurable results. The quantification of these "design intangibles" is a unique feature to the DQI, enabling building owners and planning officials to define and evaluate design quality at all key stages in the development process.

The development of the DQI has finally made it possible to identify the accepted universal attributes that constitute good design. For the first time, using the DQI assessment tool, everyone involved in the design, production and use of a building can easily evaluate and benchmark the quality of its design.


The DQI assessment is groundbreaking in that it is designed for easy use by everyone involved in the production of a building, including architects, planners, public officials, clients, designers, developers, contractors, project managers, facilities managers, occupants and users. It is also applicable throughout the entire construction process, from inception, design, and construction, through the point of completion when the building is ultimately occupied and in use.

The DQI also provides a platform for building project consensus. Because it defines ubiquitous critical project elements, and reduces costly project delays, it leads to reduced project cost, decreased development time and improved design quality.

For Developers and Procurement Teams, the DQI:

  • minimizes change orders
  • quantifies design intangibles
  • accelerates planning approval
  • improves communication
  • reduces procurement time and rework costs

For building Owners:

  • reduces operating costs
  • decreases capital expenditures
  • decreases energy costs
  • increases asset value
  • reduces occupant and user complaints

For Occupants and Users:

  • improves functional efficiency
  • increases worker productivity
  • enhances quality of work life
  • improves air, light and temperature quality.

The DQI is the only tool of its kind and provides for a quick and objective assessment and evaluation of design quality. The methodology allows for a multitude of useful analysis and performance checks. Using the DQI enables easy comparison of the completed product to the original design requirements. DQI results can also be compared between participants as well as between different projects. Thus, architects can compare their response to that of the client, property manager, contractor, planning official, leasing agent, building tenant, etc. Likewise, buildings can be compared and contrasted within peer groups (one hospital might be compared with another), by cost (the design quality of buildings under $5 million could be compared with those over $20 million), by procurement method, etc.

Finally, the social benefits of improving our built environment cannot be understated. Research has clearly stated that patients heal more quickly in well-designed hospitals and students achieve higher educational standards in well-designed schools. Though the effects of an improved environment have yet to be fully quantified, the fact remains the DQI can help systematically improve the environment around us. The DQI is on the forefront of quantifying these benefits.


The DQI is a web-based assessment tool that helps define and evaluate design quality at all key stages in the building procurement process. It was derived from the ancient themes of Vitruvius, the Roman author of the earliest surviving theoretical treatise on building in Western culture, which lays out the need for a scientific understanding of materials. The DQI’s focus is on measuring the three recognized and timeless aspects of design quality as defined Vitruvius over 2,000 years ago:

  1. Functionality – the arrangement, quality and interrelationship of spaces and how the building is designed to be useful to all.
  2. Build Quality – the engineering performance of the building, which includes structural stability and the integration, safety and robustness of the systems, finishes and fittings; and
  3. Impact – the building’s ability to create a sense of place and have a positive effect on the local community and environment;

Through a proprietary algorithm, the tool converts individual subjective perceptions into objective measurable results. Clients, designers and building stakeholders rate aspects of a project on a simple six-point scale by completing a short questionnaire. The quantification of these "design intangibles" is a unique feature to the DQI. The spider diagram is the signature output of the DQI. The “chunks” missing from the pie represent deficiencies in the building. Below are sample spider diagrams from three hypothetical buildings projects.

Spider Charts

The DQI is used by any number of project stakeholders to 'score' both designs and completed buildings. It measures design quality as a project progresses from schematics, through construction, all the way to building completion and post-occupancy. The DQI utilizes an online database to store and output the collective design opinions of all the stakeholders involved in the procurement process. DQI assessments are managed on the web through a fully interactive analysis tool, which provides respondents with instant feedback on their views of the design as well as collective DQI output to the leaders of the project. The interface for users has been designed to be as approachable and user friendly as possible, accessible to all those who are comfortable using a web browser.

Some examples of statements in the DQI questionnaire include: “The building easily accommodates the users’ needs”; “The lighting is versatile for different user requirements”; “The building provides good security”; “The circulation spaces and common areas are enjoyable”; “The building is sited well in relation to its context”; “There is sufficient daylight in the building”; “The building is energy efficient”; “The building makes you think”. As can be seen, the questions are simple and straightforward, generally requiring the use of basic common sense.


Academics have estimated that between 5-7% of all construction costs are attributed to deficiencies in design, leading to “rework”. Errors in building design from the $3.6 trillion spent on construction related services cost investors and taxpayers between $65 and $200 billion annually in “rework” fees. In terms of time spent in discussions between technical experts (e.g. architects, engineers) and non-technical procurement teams (e.g. owners, administrators) months, even years, are expended in discussing a proposed design.

The DQI dramatically decreases the amount of time spent on design and rework by creating 1) a common language to discuss design between technical and non-technical groups and 2) common metrics by which procurement teams can evaluate whether a proposed design is “good” or what aspects of a design are “not good.”


Simply delivering on time and within budget is no longer good enough - a focus on creating buildings of the highest design quality is becoming the mandate across a wide variety of building types in both the public and private sector. Procurement teams are now routinely charged with measuring and demonstrating design quality, from conception through post-occupancy, to ensure the building meets end-user needs. The federal government has gone as far as enacting Executive Orders, such as the Federal Real Property Asset Management Act issued by President Bush in 2004, to promote efficient and economical use of real property resources.

The DQI takes the guesswork out of designing a building by converting individual subjective perceptions into objective measurable results. The quantification of these “design intangibles” is a unique feature to the DQI. It can be used during the Concept, Design, Construction, and Occupation stages of a building’s development to benchmark the needs and expectations of project constituents against the actual project’s progress. The DQI’s proprietary framework also focuses the procurement team on the needs of the end users, involves all the stakeholders, and helps develop a fundamentally better and more sustainable building.


  1. Appoint a DQI Leader to work with a certified DQI Facilitator or Trailblazer
  2. Purchase a Leader Key to enable access to the DQI
  3. Register the project online and generate Respondent Keys
  4. Recruit Respondents to complete the DQI
  5. Complete the DQI assessment either remotely or in workshop setting
  6. Review DQI output and evaluate design flaws as necessary
  7. Schedule follow-up DQI assessments as needed
  8. Adjust design goals (OPTIONAL) with a DQI Facilitator or Trailblazer

The DQI should be used at all stages in the development of a building and should be revisited throughout a project’s life. It is used to assess both designs and completed buildings. There are four versions of the DQI relevant to the four primary stages of a project as shown below. The FAVE Module is used to set initial design goals for benchmarking.

Spider Charts
  1. Briefing
    For new build projects: Used to assess any early design schemes. This can be done immediately after establishing project design goals using the FAVE Module.
  2. Mid Design
    For new build or renovation projects: Used to check whether design goals have been met and to make any necessary improvements; can be used throughout the design phase by client and design teams when things are not too late to change.
  3. Ready for Occupation
    For new build or renovation projects: Used to check whether the brief/original intent has been achieved immediately pre-occupation.
  4. In Use
    For new build projects: Used post-occupancy in order to receive feedback from the project team and the building users to help make improvements for this project and the next.
    For renovation projects: Should be the first step for any renovation project to determine a baseline by which your team will be able to gauge improvement and degrees of success. It will be the time zero assessment of how well or how poorly the current design of the building is faring. The tool will identify and quantify the most glaring deficiencies and better help the procurement team allocate resources for the upcoming work.

FAVE Module (optional and only to be used by trained DQI Facilitator or Trailblazer)

Used to set and/or adjust design goals, the FAVE module should be used on a stand-alone basis at later stages; defines what design aspects are “Fundamental”, what would “Add Value” and what would achieve “Excellence” in the completed building (FAVE); helps set priorities and answer questions such as, ‘what do we want?’, ‘where do we want to spend the money?’.

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sample highlight of design defects

sample quality perception gap

sample scores output